EDUCATION MINISTER, Huw Lewis, has admitted that combating extremism in schools is something that ‘should concern us all’. At a recent Senedd debate he was questioned by Plaid Cymru AM, Simon Thomas, who enquired as to what the minister was pro-actively doing on the issue, and in particular, within educational settings.
Responding, Mr Lewis said: “I think Simon Thomas touches upon a very important issue that should concern us all in terms of how schools approach these profoundly important issues. The Welsh Government does have a national community cohesion delivery plan, which helps to enhance a better understanding of communities and enables services to respond to the changing needs of communities. And the Welsh Government funds eight regional community cohesion co-ordinators to provide all-Wales coverage to support the development of work through that delivery plan.”
He went on to cite the proposed new curriculum changes, put forward in the Donaldson report, as a way forward in tackling the problem, stating: “I would, though take the opportunity to also mention my intent that schools individually, and as a whole, need to rise to the challenge of community cohesion, and I believe that Professor Graham Donaldson’s four purposes, one of which is that children should be ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world, demands that we take action. And, in that regard, I’d like to take the opportunity to announce that I believe we need to transform our current religious education curriculum. My contention would be that we rename the RE curriculum and transform it into the religion, philosophy and ethics element of the curriculum, where there is an explicit commitment to allowing children to ponder ideas around ethics and citizenship and what it means to be a citizen of a free country.”
Simon Thomas went on to point out that the issue could not wait for such implementation of a new curriculum, that could be some years off, as well as expressing concern that some teachers may be insufficiently trained for identifying extremism, saying: “If we look to the past, there’s clearly been a certain uncertainty around the Westminster Government’s Prevent strategy and that’s been changed over the years. The evaluation of the Advisory Directorate For Youth, Women and Imams’ Active Development, which is an earlier Welsh Government cohesion strategy with the Muslim Council of Wales—which was set up to combat an earlier kind of exhibition of extremism that was around at that stage, namely Al- Muhajiroun, working in Cardiff— found that it didn’t target sufficiently those at risk of embracing extremism. So, I’m grateful that the Minister said that he’s aware of these issues. I don’t think that we can wait for Donaldson, however, to deliver on some of these things. I would ask the Minister now, as many teachers are in the front line of seeing extremism being expressed in the classroom or, indeed, in pupils’ attitudes to each other, is he confident that they now have the skills and training to deal with such issues?”
The minister admitted that not all teachers would feel confident in reacting to overtly extremist classroom comments, citing, once again, the Donaldson report: “That’s why we do need to shift gear, really, in terms of the support that’s out there and available for our professionals. We also need to be proactive, in my view. I think to be reactive is not enough. We really need to allow young people the space and the time, within the school curriculum, to consider fundamental issues of faith and of citizenship and of the meaning of freedom. That is why, I think, we do need to consider change, through Donaldson, in the current religious education curriculum.”
Mr Thomas cited an EU initiative that he believed should involve the education Minister, saying: “The EU commissioner for education, Tibor Navracsics, has established a process for discussion with education Ministers on citizenship in the curriculum—precisely the issue that the Minister was talking about— and to promote inter-community dialogue. He told the European Parliament’s cultural committee, in response to a question from Jill Evans, Member of the European Parliament, that this should include devolved Governments also.”
He further questioned the Minister as to whether or not he was part of that dialogue and if he wasn’t, could he assure the Senedd that he would commit to becoming part of the dialogue, to which the minister responded: “I’m not aware of any contact from the level of the EU on this issue, concerning that strand of work that’s going on in Europe. So, I will undertake to ask officials to seek out the agenda that he mentions and, as he suggests, engage with it.”
Canned Food UK & Tata Steel launch package design challenge
Canned Food UK (CFUK) and Tata Steel in Europe launch the Packaging Design Challenge this week on April 24 2020.
The challenge encourages children aged 15 and under to design and create their own pack which demonstrates packaging’s important role in protecting our food and drink.
To take part entrants first create their ‘product’, a sponge in a freezer bag with 200ml of water and secondly, a pack for their product using materials otherwise destined for the recycling bin which have been cleaned such as cereal boxes, milk cartons or loo roll holders.
Entrants are invited to send photos or a video to CFUK by tagging Instagram posts with @cannedfooduk or #packagingdesignchallenge or emailing email@example.com.
Entries should show how their packs are decorated, which parts are recyclable and if their pack survives the drop test – dropping their pack from head height to see if the product leaks.
A winner will be selected by a panel of experts for a chance to win £100 in Amazon vouchers and the closing date is midnight on Monday 22 May 2020.
The challenge launches with a live session on Canned Food UK’s Facebook page at 11am on Friday 24 April with Nicola Jones, Tata Steel’s Packaging Recycling Education manager, who normally visits schools nationwide delivering interactive workshops that showcase the benefits of packaging.
“Lots of families would have been returning from the Easter break this week and I would have been in classrooms talking about how steel is made and why we use packaging. I wanted to continue to share these resources and the Packaging Design Challenge was the perfect opportunity,” comments Nicola.
“It’s a straightforward activity that children can do with minimal adult supervision, that’s away from a computer screen, and at the same time, learn about how packaging protects our food and drink, reduces waste and how it’s recycled.”
“I think the challenge will showcase the effectiveness of packaging, just like the can which has great shelf appeal, durability and of course, is infinitely recyclable,” adds Robert Fell, director at CFUK and competition judge. “I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s entries, especially if they survive the drop test.”
Strictly Cymru brings dancing a-plenty to 2020
Disabled people from all over Wales have waltzed into 2020 for Strictly Cymru – the country’s renowned inclusive dance competition.
Run by charity Leonard Cheshire, in partnership with the national governing body Paradance UK, the competition has seen dancers in both inclusive and wheelchair-specific categories compete in six heats across South Wales, in preparation for the grand final on 6 June. Strictly Cymru is now in its third year.
Winning in the inclusive categories at the Carmarthen heat on 17 January were Coleg Sir Gar students Kieron, Toby, Thomas, and Max, as well as Richard, who came independently from Coleshill Day Centre in Llanelli and wowed the judges with his Michael Jackson inspired fast feet and moonwalk. A few days later, Rebecca, Chloe, and Anesha from Heronsbridge School lifted the trophy at the Bridgend heat on 21 January.
Gower College students Daniel and Carys wowed the judges with their synchronised dancing at the Cardiff heat, while Coleg Gwent student Matthew secured a place on the final in the inclusive heat held in Newport last week.
Meanwhile, in the wheelchair dance category, dancers Chad and Ben took gold in Carmarthen and Bridgend respectively. The Carmarthen heat rang with the sound of Chad’s catchphrase of “Absolutely fantastic!”
Then, the fifth heat in Cardiff saw the youngest person to take part in Strictly to date, five-year-old Inga, win in the wheelchair category, before Robin John won the final wheelchair heat in Newport after being inspired by his partner Dianne, who was highly commended in last year’s competition grand final.
Dance instructors from Paradance UK also took the participants, who came from schools the community and Leonard Cheshire services in the area, through their paces ahead of each dance-off to give everyone the best chance at reaching the final.
Chad said: “It has been a really great two days and I’ve enjoyed getting to know new people and learn tango. I’m looking forward to the final.”
Robin John, winning at Newport, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful, I’ve tried before and lost, but it feels on a whole different planet to win a heat! I’m looking forward to the final and don’t mind which genre of dance I get, I can adapt to most things.”
Ruth Jones, MP for Newport West, was a judge at the heat there. Ruth said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect beforehand, but it was amazing. As you walked into the room the enthusiasm hit you like a wave. It was so hard to choose a winner because they were all brilliant in their own way, everybody did the maximum they could possibly do.”
Alan Dear, Head of Theatre and Arts at Newport Live, helped support the Newport heat and said: “It is the most joyful thing I have done in years.”
The heats were open to people of all ages and abilities and the overall winners of the competition will be crowned in the Ffwrnes theatre in Llanelli on 6 June 2020. There they will receive the coveted Strictly glitter ball trophy.
Lee Waters in School Council Summit
LOCAL Member of the Senedd, Lee Waters has held the third Llanelli School Council Summit in the Welsh Parliament for secondary school pupils from across the constituency.
Over 70 pupils from schools right across the area visited the Senedd to learn how the Welsh Parliament works and take part in debates in the old Assembly debating chamber.
Pupils chose to debate lowering the voting age and banning diesel cars. They also had the opportunity to question the Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething about their concerns and on his experiences as a Minister in the Welsh Government.
Lee Waters MS said
“Every year since becoming elected I’ve invited the school councils from the secondary schools across Llanelli to the Senedd for a School Council Summit. I’m really pleased that the event has grown and grown.”
“The pupils enthusiasm and grasp of the issues was really impressive, and it was great to hear their thoughts on some really important issues.”
“I was delighted to give pupils a chance to discuss their ideas with the Health Minister Vaughan Gething, debate issues that are important to them, and get practical careers advice learn from past pupils at their schools who now work in Welsh public life.”
“I want to show that pupils from Llanelli can succeed at whatever they choose in life, and get them involved in Welsh democracy.”
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